I am a Youth Services Librarian, specifically Teen Services. This is a career that I am proud of. I get to help people every day and that is worth something. I connect kids, tweens, and teens, but also their accompanying adults, parents, teachers, guardians, etc. with the materials they need to succeed in school, in the workforce and later in life. I advocate for your child at the library, in the community, at the state level, and nationally. I connect readers (and non-readers….especially non-readers) with the right books at the right time…and if I suggest a book that reader didn’t enjoy, I go above and beyond to find one that is right. I provide after-school and summer activities, both educational and social, targeted at providing a fun outlet in a safe place. I do all this with the tiny budget that comes from the very minuscule percentage of the tax monies that go to the library. I do big things with small funds.
So, what does all this have to do with President Trump and his attempt to eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services? First, do you know what the IMLS is or what it does? Let me tell you. The IMLS “is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and approximately 35,000 museums.” Let me add some emphasis here…”the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and approximately 35,000 museums.” Let that sink in. The IMLS has helped libraries innovate for the last 20 years. In 2012, Wisconsin received $2,862,663.00 from IMLS, $2,745,416.00 in 2013, $2,840,170.00 in 2014, $2,663,262.00 in 2015, and $2,670,703.00 last year. Some of this money went to fund the Growing Wisconsin Readers initiative in 2013. Not familiar with the program? Let me explain because it is one that we youth librarians hold dear.
“Growing Wisconsin Readers is a new statewide, public library-based early literacy initiative that brings together caregivers of young children and early childhood advocates with a simple message: Read to your child!” This program gives caregivers the tools they need to effectively read with babies, toddlers, and young children. It takes the early literacy message from the library and spreads it throughout the community through continuing education, posters, brochures, a mobile-friendly website…and it is not just available in English, but also in Spanish and Hmong. “The Growing Wisconsin Readers initiative aims to support caregivers of young children with information about early literacy so they can prepare children for learning at school and beyond. Children exposed to early literacy activities and reading experiences are better positioned for success in school and success in life. Growing Wisconsin Readers reinforces this message at community locales and across the state via public librarians and early childhood advocates.”
Maybe you don’t have young kids, so the Growing Wisconsin Readers initiative doesn’t matter to you. Fair enough. I think it’s fair to say that we all know someone touched by Autism Spectrum Disorder. IMLS granted over $18k for several Wisconsin libraries in seven counties to receive training, equipment and materials that would make their facilities more accessible and welcoming to children on the spectrum. “The participating libraries held 329 programs that were promoted as open and welcoming to kids on the autism spectrum.” That is huge!
(See what I did there?)
Workforce Development is another area that libraries help with and you may not even realize it. We offer free access to the internet which, in turn, allows the user access to job applications, job search engines, and the like. Librarians are often tasked with assisting in resume building, utilizing the fax machine to send job-related materials, emailing job-related materials, and so on. Beyond that, libraries play a critical role in helping patrons develop 21st-century skills like communications and technology literacy, critical thinking, problem-solving, civic literacy, global awareness, the list goes on. At my current library, we offer Tablet Time weekly on Thursdays so that adults with tablets (or any technology, really) can get 1:1 assistance in navigating new techologies. We also have an informal “Book a Librarian” program that allows patrons to work 1:1 with a librarian whenever fits in their schedule.
Those are just a few examples of the importance of IMLS. I didn’t even touch on all the STEM/STEAM initiatives, makerspace programs, media mentorship, the coding initiative, funds allocated to tribal libraries, or the myriad of other initiatives that are all made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. What all this means is that all those big things I do with small funds will have to be done with even smaller funds. The ALA President Julie Todaro issued a statement saying that, “The American Library Association will mobilize its members, Congressional library champions and the millions upon millions of people we serve in every zip code to keep those ill-advised proposed cuts from becoming a Congressional reality.” Consider me one mobilized member…and I’m bringing my friends! Join me.
You can find all this information, and more at www.imls.gov
How can you help?
“There are several actions we can take right now:
- Call your Members of Congress – ask them to publicly oppose wiping out IMLS, and ask them to commit to fighting for federal library funding. (You can find talking points and an email template on the Action Center.)
- Share your library’s IMLS story using the #SaveIMLS tag – tell us how IMLS funding supports your local community. If you aren’t sure which IMLS grants your library has received, you can check the searchable database available on the IMLS website.
- Sign up to receive our action alerts – we will let you know when and how to take action, and send you talking points and background information.
- Register to participate in National Library Legislative Day on May 1-2, either in Washington, D.C., or online. (Source)